3 Golden Rules for Creating Online Content

Social media rewards those who have a way with words (and pictures)

As some of the buzz around social media begins to wane, conversation among marketers is moving toward quality content. Many of us spent 2010 getting “social.” We got on Facebook, started tweeting, and (if we were really adventurous) even began blogging. We put so much energy into getting connected that we forgot to think about what we were going to say on these new platforms.

So what exactly is content? For the sake of this article, it is any piece of text, video, audio, or image you post on the Web—anything from a 140-character tweet to a 14,000-word e-book. Maybe it’s a picture of a customer trying on a piece of jewelry or a video helping brides-to-be pick an accessory for their bridesmaids. Quality content, however, is different: It’s practical, entertaining information that provides a service to visitors.

Content marketing lives or dies by the caliber and usefulness of the material. You can’t simply start flooding the Web with information. Quality content should be professionally written, have a visual aspect to draw people in, and speak to your customers’ needs more than your own.

Every store/brand will eventually need to create compelling content on a regular basis—in essence, become publishers. A comScore/Yahoo study found that some 90 percent of shoppers research a product online before purchasing. Through that research, consumers will likely meet helpful retailers offering answers to their burning questions. Such help-first, sell-later tactics build trust while steering consumers away from more convenient but less helpful shopping experiences. Sure, a buyer might assume that a local jeweler knows what he’s talking about, but the buyer would prefer to deal with the helpful jeweler easily found online.

Creating content can be daunting, so keep these golden rules in mind:

• Be useful. Think about your customers’ biggest questions. Once you know their challenges, it’s easy to devise solutions. One thing ­jewelers certainly have is a knowledge base—use it to bring buyers into your store.

Be interesting. Consumers are swimming in a veritable sea of information on the Internet. What they often miss is content that entertains as it informs. Make yours rise above the rest. Take risks, have fun, and—as best-selling author/marketing whiz Seth Godin says—be remarkable.

Be consistent. Search engines like Google love fresh content, so you have to be vigilant about creating new pages. Begin with an editorial plan: Schedule everything from blog posts, tweets, and Facebook messages to videos and pictures on a single calendar.

If you’re serious about incorporating content into online marketing, you need to add something of substance at least once a week. It’ll be overwhelming, especially at first, so leverage your staff, your personality, and your social media presence to get information out there.

New and existing customers alike are going online to look for answers. When you help them, you’re more likely to be the one to close the sale.